Scott Heywood had more to give than just his interview from earlier in the week. He also had some great advice for the next generation of anglers. Scott told me all of this over coffee in the airport in Zagreb many years ago. I was working as a heavy for the Norwegian mafia hunting down some rouge black market lutefisk in the crazy days after the break up of Yugoslavia and Scott was on his way to catch his second 20 pound bonefish in Dubia.
I didn’t take notes, but I didn’t have to. I have a photographic memory, except with sound (including font and punctuation). So, now I pass on that advice…
The Future of Our Sport
The Most Important of Angling Skills
Because in our culture, it is the duty of the experienced to pass on skills to the inexperienced, and because in the past few years we have seen an alarming lack of skill demonstrated by many anglers new to our sport, we have decided to broach a most sensitive, yet critical, subject. We feel that it is high time that someone with courage and a deep and abiding concern for flyfishing’s future steps forth to discuss the increasing lack of commitment by the experienced to pass down the most important of angling skills.
For many centuries now, how an angler managed the truth revealed both the accumulated skills of the angler and the level to which he was enjoyed by the angling community. With this in mind (and not much else), we humbly offer some pointers on the fine art of truth management with the goal of training the young and passing this wisdom on to the uninitiated. What follows are important rules to fish by… please pay close attention.
1. Always remain plausible. This is the most critical component to good truth management. We have a friend that each day always catches a 24-26” trout on a stream that may produce such a fish once a season. Obviously, his prevarication skills are suspect which, unfortunately, brings all his angling skills into question. We still like him, we just don’t listen to him because he broke the cardinal rule of plausibility. So our advice is learn your water and learn what your friends will accept – pay close attention to raised eyebrows and stolen glances and always remember truth management skill #1… “Maybe it didn’t happen, but it COULD have.”
2. Be creative. Don’t limit yourself to inches and pounds and perhaps try buffering your story with other emotions like disappointment to throw off your audience. For example, “I hooked a 10+ lb. bone, but decided to break him off when a shark chased him. It broke my heart!” or “The trout was at least 20” and he finally took my #22 Adams, but I couldn’t land him because he went through the next rapids and I slipped and couldn’t keep up with him (due to my arthritis [optional]).”
Both statements clearly delineate your superb angling skills, but the feigned disappointment promotes plausibility (see above) and camouflages the absurdity of your story. Your friends will love it and although they don’t believe it, they will respect you.
Remember then Rule #2… “Good stories only happen to people who can tell them.”
3. Never listen to your guide. All guides lie (but for tips, so its OK) and once you have repeated their lie they will desert you like Linda Tripp at a plastic surgeon’s convention. Your guide tells you 8 lbs. they will tell their buddies it was really 6 lbs. and this will get back to your friends as 5 lbs. Meanwhile, you’ve been running around telling everyone about this 8lb. fish you caught. This is a critical truth management error. Your credibility is zero for a least a year. Speaking of this, we had a fellow mail us a picture of a trout the guide told him was 11 lbs. and the picture showed clearly to be barely half that. Of course, we said nothing (please note this. . . we may lie, but we are polite, Ed.), but we winced when he told us he had sent a copy of the photo to all his friends. Obviously, with a little training this guy could easily have learned to add on a pound or two and lose the negatives. It seems so easy, but like all angling skills it has to be learned and practiced. So Rule #3 is… “Never limit yourself by the truth.”
4. Never offer information. Make your friends pull it out of you – be cool! This is absolutely critical because this hesitancy makes you seem both modest and truthful. Since obviously we are neither, this is a skill you’ll want to acquire
ASAP (acquiring this skill immediately earns advanced angling status, Ed.). When one truly masters this skill, you will enter the most revered of angling stations, that of sage (aka TV Angling Show Host) so rule #4 is… “False modesty is the best policy.”
5. Underestimate if there is proof. Again another advanced skill, but if acquired, one that will place you far above the rank and file in terms of truth management skills. So remember, when something does happen and you actually catch a fish and you have witnesses or pictures. . . pay close attention now as this runs contrary to every instinct an angler has. . . you must underestimate the size and length of the fish. Yes, we know it goes against our nature, but try it. For example, say a fly pulls from a shark’s mouth, lassoes the fish and you land him anyway (this happened to me. . . honest!) in clear view of at least two angling friends. When telling the story, say your fish was 20 lbs. if he was 60 lbs. and that it took 5 minutes to land him if it took 20. You’ll find your stories will have credibility for years to come and rest assured, your friends will set the record straight. So rule #5 is… “Whenever possible, deceive your friends even if you’re telling the truth.”
With that, my plane was called for boarding and we parted ways.